Formations Summary

January–April 2024

Unit 1: Jesus Says, “Follow Me”

LaMon Brown

In this season of Epiphany, we emphasis the revelation of God to the world in the person of Jesus Christ. How appropriate, then, that we will study about following and proclaiming Jesus during this season. This month’s unit of study explores Jesus’s call to discipleship in all four of the Gospels. The unit title comes from the words of Jesus in the first lesson, when Jesus calls four fishermen to follow him. In the second lesson, the Gospel writer describes Jesus preaching in his hometown. In the third lesson, Jesus prepares his disciples for the mission on which he is sending them. The final lesson describes how Jesus sends his apostles into the world after his resurrection. May we learn how to reveal God’s presence in the world by following our Lord’s example.

Unit 2: The Book of Jonah

Lee Canipe, Blake Kendrick

The book of Jonah is unusual. Other Old Testament prophets are sent to deliver God’s word—and often God’s judgment—to God’s people in Israel and Judah. Here, God sends Jonah to preach repentance in Assyria. God’s people are stubborn and unwilling to listen to what these prophets have to say. But when Jonah preaches a one-sentence sermon, the entire city of Nineveh immediately repents of its collective sin. Jonah can be disobedient, petulant, prejudiced, sullen, and indignant. He can also be remorseful, brave, and faithful. Like Jonah, we are not always who we would like to be. As we approach Lent, we will witness Jonah wrestle with God’s call in ways that are—depending on the day—resistant, reflective, repentant, and resentful. As we spend some quality time with this unique prophet, where will we see ourselves in his story?

Unit 3: Practicing Lent

Paul Mullen, Rick Jordan

The Lenten season provides a sacred opportunity for us to grow closer to Christ in devoted love and daily commitment. The lessons in this unit draw our attention to Scripture passages that heighten our spiritual focus and challenge us with practical ways to grow deeper in our faith. Our first session will challenge us to consider how fasting can sharpen our focus on Christ throughout the Lenten journey. Lesson two will help us learn what it means to fine-tune our spiritual receptivity and experience more of God’s promised rest. In our third lesson, we will explore Psalm 51, one of the most riveting confessions in the Scriptures. In lesson four, we must decide what it means to follow a humble Messiah whose power is found in sacrificial love. Finally, our unit concludes on Easter Sunday, when we explore how the resurrection changed everything for Jesus’s first followers and how it can do the same for us.

Unit 4: Come to the Table

Alicia Davis Porterfield, Lawanda Smith, Bryan Whitfield

Gathering around a table to share bread and wine and proclaim Jesus’s saving work has always been a central act of Christian worship. Over four weeks, this unit will examine facets of this meal and the Christian traditions that developed surrounding it over the last 2000 years. In Luke 24, “breaking of the bread” is associated with an appearance of the risen Christ. In session 3, Paul calls the church to sobriety in their observance of “the Lord’s supper.” Finally, Luke 22 calls the act of blessing “giving thanks,” translated in Greek as Eucharist. In this lesson we’ll see how the idea of Eucharist highlights the role of thankful praise in our worship. In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul says that sharing in the bread and the cup represents sharing in the body and blood of Christ. As you explore these facets of Christian worship at the table, consider how they might expand your understanding and practice of this important sacred act of the church.

May–August 2024

Unit 1: The Contemplative Life

Taylor Sandlin

Much of our lives is bent toward striving. We strive to make a living and to get ahead financially. We work as hard at spiritual things as we do at all the rest. Time and again, the Scriptures invite us to stop our striving and turn our attention to what God is already doing on our behalf. In session 1, the psalmist invites us to still our efforts so that we might know that the Lord is God. In session 2, Paul encourages the Romans not to fear even when their prayers fall short, trusting that the Holy Spirit prays through us. In session 3, Jesus assures us that God hears our prayers and will meet our needs. In session 4, Paul prays that we might know the riches of the glorious inheritance we have in Christ. Though we may not all be inclined toward contemplation, we can all benefit from learning how to reflect on who God is and what that means for us.

Unit 2: The Life of Peter

Joe LaGuardia

This unit explores five seasons in Peter’s life, drawing parallels with our own journeys of spiritual maturity. In session 1, we explore what it’s like to enter a season of new beginnings, just as Peter was called by Jesus. Next, we experience a season of confrontation as Jesus confronts Peter’s assumptions about ministry and God’s mission. The third and fourth seasons of Peter’s life and ours involve a crisis of faith and healing. In lessons 3 and 4, Peter denies Jesus three times at his trial, only to find healing and restoration in the presence of the risen Savior. In the final session, Peter has now grown until he resembles his Master, healing and preaching like Jesus. What does our own spiritual maturity look like? How will we grow deeper into Christlike ministry? As we experience each stage of faith with Peter, let us remember that God’s word speaks not only about the past but also into God’s transformative present.

Unit 3: The Book of Daniel

Barry Stricker

Daniel was part of the group carried into exile when the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar conquered Judah in the sixth century BC. As we explore the story of Daniel and his friends, we will grapple with four important questions. One, When does my faith require me to say no? Two, Where do I find hope when life seems out of control? Three, How do I respond to hard or challenging words from God? Four, What risks does faith require me to take? Daniel would have been safer if he had kept his faith in God private, but he continued to express his faith despite the risks to his position and even his life. Thankfully, God provided rescue for Daniel, but that isn’t always what happens. Throughout this unit, we will ask ourselves, Are we willing to be faithful even when God does not intervene?

Unit 4: Exemplary Leaders

LaMon Brown

This unit highlights four stories from the Bible that illustrate some of the characteristics of effective leadership. The first session looks at Judges 4 and the judge, Deborah, who inspired others. The second session examines the familiar story of David and Goliath, focusing on how David found courage in a crisis to overcome a challenge. Session 3 focuses on Paul, who led with his life, not just his words. Finally, session 4 examines Jesus’s time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, struggling with what would come next. We are all leaders of some sort in our personal lives and in our communities of faith. If we influence others to lead good lives, we are practicing the essence of good leadership.